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Full text of "The deserted village"

TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. 



D: 



kF.AK SIR,— I can have no expectations, in an address of this kind, either to add 
"to your reputation, or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my ad- 
miration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel; and I may lose 
much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a juster taste in poetry than you. 
Setting interest therefore aside, to which I never paid much attention, I must be in- 
dulged at present in following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was 
to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. 
Permit me to inscribe this Poem to you. 

How far you may be pleased with the versification and mere mechanical parts 
of this attempt, I do not pretend to inquire : but I know you will object (and indeed 
several of our best and wisest friends concur in the opinion), that the depopulation it 
deplores is nowhere to be seen, and the disorders it laments are only to be found in 
the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarcely make any other answer, than that 
I sincerely believe what I have written; that I have taken all possible pains, in my 
country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I allege; 
and that all my views and inquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which 
I here attempt to display. But this is not the place to enter into an inquiry, whether 
the country be depopulating or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I 
should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader with a long 
preface, when I want his unfeigned attention to a long poem. 

In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of 
our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For 
twenty or thirty years past, it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the 
greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity in that particular as 
erroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and con- 
tinue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states by which 30 many vices are intro- 
duced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed so much has been poured 
out of late on the other side of the question, that merely for the sake of novelty and 
variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right. 

I am, 

'^^^BB^- ffijjk -■ .Daw Sb)$'.° 

Vour sincere friend, and ardent admirer, 

Oliver Goldsmith. 





C\\6.r\e$ 6re^ory. R^.W. 5- 
f-VeAerick H ■ 
Errvesf Wilson. 



/Jev/-Yo(Ik. 

C^o.C.WriipfE/. 




The hawthorn basb, with seats beneath the shade, 
For talking a^ge and whispering lovers' made. 




the labouring swain, 
Where smiling spring its earliest 
visit paid, 

And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed; 

Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, 

Seats of my youth, when every sport could please, 

How often have I loitered o'er thy green, 

Where humble happiness endeared each scene; 

How often have I paused on every charm, 

The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm, 

The never-failing brook, the busy mill, 

The decent church that topped the neighbouring hill, 

The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, 

For talking age and whispering lovers made! 



How often have I blessed the coming day, 
When toil remitting lent its turn to play, 
And all the village train from labour free, 
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree; 
While many a pastime circled in the shade, 
The young contended as the old surveyed; 
And many a gambol frolicked o'er the ground, 
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round 
And still as each repeated pleasure tired, 
Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired; 
The dancing pair that simply sought renown, 
By holding out to tire each other down; 
The swain, mistrustless of his smutted face, 
While secret laughter tittered round the place: 
The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love, 
The matron's glance that would those looks reprove. 
These were thy charms, sweet village! sports like these, 
With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please; 
These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed, 
These were thy charms— but all these charms are fled. 

Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn ! 
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn 
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, 
And desolation saddens all thy green: 
One only master grasps the whole domain, 
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain: 




*J~be basbjcil virgin's side-long looks of love, 
, The matrons ^la nee that would those looks reprove. 




reflects the day, 
But choked wilh sedges, works its weedy way: 
Along thy glades, a solitary guest, 
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; 
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, 
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries. 
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, 
And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall; 
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, 
Far, far away thy children leave the land. 

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, 
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay: 
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade, 
A breath can make them, as a breath has made; 
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, 
When once destroyed, can never be supplied. 

A time there was, ere England's griefs began, 
When every rood of ground maintain'd its man; 
For him light labour spread her wholesome store, 
Just gave what life required, but gave no more; 
His best companions, innocence and health, 
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth. 

But times are altered; trade's unfeeling train 
Usurp the , land, and dispossess 'the swain : 
Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose, 
Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose; 
And every want to luxury allied, 
And every pang that folly pays to pride. 
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom, 
Those calm desires that asked but little room, 
Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene, 
Lived in each look, and brightened ail the green; 
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore, 
And rural mirth and manners are no more. 




Sweet Auburn, parent of the blissful hour! 
Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power. 
Here, as I take my solitary rounds, 
Amidst thy tangling- walks, and ruined grounds, 
And, many a year elapsed, return to view 
Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew, 
Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, 
Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain. 

In all my wand'rings round this world of care, 
In all my griefs — and God has given my share — 
I still had hopes my latest hours to crown, 
Amidst these humble JJ 
bowers to lay me 




Amidst the swains to show my 
book-learned skill, 



Around my fire an evening group to draw, 
And tell of all I felt, and all I saw. 
And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue, 
Pants to the place from whence at first she flew, 
I still had hopes, my long vexations past, 
Here to return— and die at home at last. 




blest retirement, friend to life's decline, 

Retreats from care, that never must be mine, 
r~33How blest is he who crowns, in shades 

like these, 

A youth of labour with an age of ease; 
Who quits a world where strong temptations try, 
And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly! 

no wretches, born to work and weep, 



i 



^ Explore the mine, or tempt 
the dangerous deep ; 
No surly porter stands 
in guilty state, 



f^-To spurn imploring famine from the Q~ gate : 
\ 6iit on he moves to meet his latter end, 
^ Angtels around befriending virtue's friend: 
Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay, 
While resignation gently slopes the way ; 
And, all his prospects brightening to the last, 
His heaven commences ere the world be past. 

Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close, 
Up yonder hill the village murmer rose; 
There, as I passed with careless steps and slow, 
The mingling notes came softened from below; 
The swain responsive as the milk maid sung, 
The sober herd that lowed to meet their young; 
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, 
The playful children just let loose from school; 
The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind, 
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind; 
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, 
And filled each pause the nightingale had made. 
But now the sounds of population fail, 
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale, 
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread, 
But all the blooming flush of life is fled; 
All but yon widowed, solitary thing, 
That feebly bends beside the plashy spring; 
She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread, 
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread, 
To pick her wintry fagot from the thorn, 
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn; 
She only left of all the harmless train, 
The sad historian of the pensive plain. 



12 




ear yonder copse, where once the garden 
smiled, 

And still where many a garden flower 
grows wild; 

There, where a few torn shrubs the 
place disclose, 

The village preacher's modest mansion 
rose, 

A man he was to all the country dear, 
And passing rich with forty pounds a 
year: 



| Remote from towns he ran his godly 

race, 

Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to 

change his place; 
Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power, 
By doctrines fashioned to the varying 
hour; 

Far other aims his heart had learned to prize 
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise. 




15 



His house was known to all the vagrant train, 
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain: 
The long remembered beggar was his guest, 
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; 
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud, 
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed; 
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, 
Sat by his fire, and talked the night away; 
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done 
Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won. 
Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, 
And quite forgot their vices in their woe; 
Careless their merits, or their faults to scan, 
His pity gave ere charity began. 




16 




s And, as a bird each fond endearment tries, 

_Xo tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies. 



Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride, 
And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side; 
But in his duty prompt at every call, 
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all; 

And, as a bird each fond endearment tries, 
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies, 
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay, 
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way. 




t 4 

Beside the bed 
where parting life was laid, 
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns 
dismayed, 
\ The reverend champion stood. At 
l his control, 

Despair and 
anguish 
fled the struggling 
soul; 

Comfort came down the 
trembling wretch to raise, 
And his last faltering accents whispered praise. 

At church, with meek and unaffected 
grace, 

His looks adorned the venerable place; 



\ 



Truth from his lips prevailed with double 

sway, 

And fools, who came to scoff, 
remained to pray. 

The service past, around 
the pious man, 

With steady zeal, each honest 
rustic ran; 

E'en children followed with 

endearing wile, 

And plucked his gown, to share 
the good man's smile. 




As some fall cliff that lifts its awful form, 
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm. 



22 




Their welfare pleased him, and 

their care distressed; 



To them his heart, his love, his griefs 

were given, 
But all his serious thoughts had rest in 

heaven. 

As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, 
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, 
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, 
Eternal sunshine settles on its head. 




eside yon straggling fence that skirts the way 
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay, 
There in his noisy mansion, skilled to 
i rule, 
^The village master taught his little 
school : 
A man severe he was, 
and stern to view, 
I knew him well, and 
every truant knew; 
Well had the boding tremblers 
learned to trace 
The day's disasters in his morning face; 
Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee 
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he; 




25 




ull well the busy whisper circling round, 
^f^<flP ' Conveyed the dismal tidings when he 

frowned : 

Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught, 
The love he bore to learning was in 
fault; 

The village all declared how much he 
knew, 

'Twas certain he could write, and 

cipher too ; 
Lands he could measure, terms and 

tides presage, 
And e'en the story ran that he could 
gauge: 

In arguing too, the parson 

owned his skill; 
For e'en though vanquished, 

he could argue still; 
While words of learned 
length, and thund'ring 
sound, 

Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around — , 
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, 
That one small head could carry all he knew. 

But past is all his fame. The very spot 
Where many a time he triumphed is forgot. — 




26 




27 






ear yonder thorn, 
that lifts its head on high, 

Where once the sign-post caught the passing 

eye, 

Low lies that house where nut-brown 
draughts inspired, 

Where grey-beard mirth, and 

smiling toil retired, ^ - 



J 



U, - ,1 



Where village statesmen 
talked with looks 
profound, 

And news much older than their ale went 

round. 



oks *y 



28 




29 




The parlour splendours of that 
festive place: 
The white -washed wall, the nicely 

sanded floor, " 
The varnished clock that clicked behind 
the door; 

The chest contrived a double debt to pay, 
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day; 
The pictures placed for ornament and use, 
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose; 
The hearth, except when winter chilled the day, 
With aspen boughs, and flowers and fennel gay, 
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show, 
Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row. 



30 




Vain transitory splendour! 

could not all 

Reprieve the tottering mansion 

from its fall? 
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it 

more impart 
An hour's importance to the poor man's heart; 
Thither no more the peasant shall repair, 
To sweet oblivion of his daily care; 
No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale, 
No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail; 
No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, 
Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear; 



31 



The host himself no longer shall be found 
Careful to see the mantling bliss go round 
Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest, 
Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest. 

Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain 
These simple blessings of the lowly train, 
To me more dear, congenial to my heart, 
One native charm, than all the gloss of art: 
Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play, 
The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway; 
Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind, 
Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined. 
But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade, 
With all the freaks of wanton wealth arrayed, 
In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain, 
The toiling pleasure sickens into pain: 
And e'en while fashion's brightest arts decoy 
The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy? 



X 



Ye friends to truth, 
[M' ye statesmen who survey 

s The rich man's joys increase, 

the poor's decay! 
'Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand 
Between a splendid and a happy land. 
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore, 
And shouting Folly hails them from her shore; 
Hoards, e'en beyond the miser's wish abound, 
And rich men flock from all the world around. 

Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name 
That leaves our useful products still the same, 
i -i Not so the loss. 




The man of wealth ) tvS 

and pride 
Takes up a space 

that many poor supplied; VjJ , 
Space for his lake, 

his park's extended bounds, ™ 
Space for his horses, equipage, 
and hounds; 
The robe that 
wraps his limbs in silken sloth, 
Has robbed the neigh- 
bouring fields of half their growth; 
His seat, where solitary 

sports are seen, 
Indignant spurns the cottage 
from the green; 



34 



Around the world each needful product flies. 
For all the luxuries the world supplies. 
While thus the land adorned for pleasure, all 
In barren splendour feebly waits the fall. 
As some fair female, unadorned and plain, 
Secure to please while youth confirms her reign, 
Slights every borrowed charm that dress supplies, 
Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes; 
But when those charms are past, for charms are frail, 
When time advances, and when lovers fail, 
She then shines forth, solicitous to bless, 
In all the glaring impotence of dress. 



In nature's simplest charms at 
first arrayed, 
But -v erging to decline, its splendours rise, 
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise; 
While, scourged by famine, from the smiling land, 
The mournful peasant leads his humble band: 
And while he sinks, without one arm to save 
The country blooms - a garden and a grave. 





Thus fares the land, 

by luxury betrayed; 




Where then, ah! where 
shall poverty reside, 

To 'scape the pressure of con- 
tiguous pride? 

If to some common's fenceless 
limits strayed, 

He drives his flock to pick the 
scanty blade, 

Those fenceless fields the sons of 
' wealth divide, 

And even the bare-worn common is denied 

If to the city sped -What waits him there? j'^W* 
To see profusion that he must not share; ,«» v» 

To see ten thousand baneful arts combined ' 
To pamper luxury, and thin mankind; V> ^5k 
To see each joy the sons of pleasure know y *v\ t^S. 

Extorted from his fellow-creature's woe. . *^ 

Here, while the courtier glitters in brocade, 
There the pale artist plies the sickly trade; 
Here, while the proud their long drawn pomps display, 
There the black gibbet glooms beside the way. 
The dome where Pleasure holds her midnight reign, 
Here, richly decked, admits the gorgeous train; 
Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square, 
The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare. 
Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy! 
Sure these denote one universal joy! 



36 



Are those thy serious thoughts?— Ah! turn thine eyes 

Where the poor houseless shivering female lies. 

She once, perhaps, in village plenty blessed, 

Has wept at tales of innocence distressed; 

Her modest looks the cottage might adorn, 

Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn, 

Now lost to all; her friends, her virtue fled, 

Near her betrayer's door she lays her head, 

And pinched with cold, and shrinking from the shower, 

With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour, 

When idly first, ambitious of the town, 

She left her wheel and robes of country brown. 

Do thine, sweet Auburn, thine, the loveliest train, 
Do thy fair tribes participate her pain? 
E'en now, perhaps, by cold and hunger led, 
At proud men's doors they ask a little bread! 

Ah, no! To distant climes, a dreary scene, 
Where half the convex world intrudes between, 
Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go, 
Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe. 
Far different there from all that charmed before, 
The various terrors of that horrid shore; 
Those blazing suns that dart a downward ray, 
And fiercely shed intolerable day; 
Those matted woods where birds forget to sing, 
But silent bats in drowsy clusters cling ; 
Those poisonous fields with rank luxuriance crowned, 
Where the dark scorpion gathers death around; 
Where at each step the stranger fears to wake 



The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake; 
Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey, 
rid savacre men. more murderous still than thev : . / 



And savage men, more murderous still than they ; 
While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies, 
Mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies. 




Far different these from every 

former scene, 
The cooling brook, the grassy 

vested green, 
The breezy covert of the 

warbling grove, 
That only sheltered thefts of 

harmless love. 



38 




39 



Good Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day 
That called them from their native walks away; 
When the poor exiles, every pleasure past, 
Hung round the bowers, and fondly looked their last, 
And took a long farewell, and wished in vain 
For seats like these beyond the western main; 
And shuddering still to face the distant deep, 
Return' d and wept, and still return'd to weep. 
The good old sire, the first prepared to go 
To new-found worlds, and wept for others' woe; 
But for himself, in conscious virtue brave, 
He only wished for worlds beyond the grave. 



40 



His lovely daughter, lovelier in her tears, 
The fond companion of his helpless years, 
Silent went next, neglectful of her charms, 
And left a lover's for a father's arms. 
With louder plaints the mother spoke her woes, 




every pleasure rose; 

■ • And kissed her thoughtless 

babes with many a tear, 
And clasped them close, in sorrow doubly dear; 
Whilst her fond husband strove to lend relief 
In all the silent manliness of grief. 





O luxury! thou cursed 
by Heaven's decree, 
How ill exchanged are 

things like these for thee! 
How do thy potions, with 

insidious joy, 
Diffuse thy pleasures only to 

destroy ! 
Kingdoms by thee, to sickly 

greatness grown, 
Boast of a florid vigour not their own: 
At every draught more large and large they grow, 
A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe; 
Till sapped their strength, and every part unsound, 
Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round. 



3H| 



43 




w itb louder plaints the mother spoke her woes 





. E'en now, methinks, as pondering her 
I see the rural virtues leave the land. 
Down where yon anchoring vessel spi 



And half the business of 



is begun, 



destruction done; 




V That idly waiting flaps with every gale, 
» Downward they move, a melancholy band, 

Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand; 
Contented toil, and hospitable care, 
And kind connubial tenderness are there; 
And piety, with wishes placed above, 
And steady loyalty, and faithful love. 

And thou, sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid, 
Still first to fly where sensual joys invade; 
Unfit in these degenerate times of shame, 
To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame — 
Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried, 
My shame in crowds, my solitary pride; 
Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe, 
That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so; 
Thou guide, by which the nobler arts excel, 
Thou nurse of every virtue— fare thee well' 



45 



Ik 



arcwell! and oh! where'er thy voice be tried, 



On Torno's cliffs, or Pambainarca's side, 
lL^* * Whether where equinoctial fervours glow, 
Or winter wraps the polar world in snow, 
k f Still let thy voice, prevailing over time, 

Redress the rigours of th' inclement clime; 
Aid slighted truth with thy persuasive strain; 
Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain; 
Teach him, that states of native strength possest, 
Though very poor, may still be very blest; 

That trade's proud empire hastes to swift 
,' r decay, 

As oceans sweep the laboured mole away; 

While self-dependent power can time defy, 

As rocks resist the billows and the sky. ^SJjg^ \Vj£^^^Cl